3 Pitfalls to Avoid in Affinity Partnerships

Affinity partnerships can be a boon for associations, but only if they’re done right.

An affinity marketing partnership is a great way to connect your members with vendor discounts or special offers. These sorts of partnerships can also bring in nondues revenue dollars, which can help diversify revenue streams and fund those extra projects or association initiatives. Seems like a win-win, right?

When done right, they are. But these partnerships can also get off track pretty quickly—and just like that, all those potential member benefits and nondues revenue streams are derailed also. Here are three pitfalls to avoid in creating and nurturing your affinity partnership:

Pitfall 1: You give your members a throwaway deal. In hopes of creating a new branch of revenue, you jump quickly into an affinity partnership with a vendor without asking the question: Is this partnership a good fit for our membership? In making the deal with this affinity partner, you’ve perhaps agreed to promote the company on your website, on webinars, and at the annual conference—at the risk of alienating your members.

Instead, you should carefully consider whether members find the vendor’s discounted product a nice benefit or a good deal. Do they even want this offer that you’re pelting at them from all angles? When you’re looking into partnerships, make sure that you’re moving forward with vendors that align with your mission—and the needs of your members, who are at the heart of your association.

Pitfall 2: You give your affinity partner a poor ROI for its investment. Associations want to be so protective of your members—which is definitely a good thing!—but sometimes they’re so protective that they might end up giving their affinity partners the short side of the proverbial stick in return for their investments. Frustrated by a poor ROI, you can imagine why vendors would want to end the affinity relationship.

To avoid this, work with your affinity partner to create a mutually beneficial partnership. Ask yourself if you’re giving a fair trade. David Frankil, president and CEO at the New Jersey Credit Union League, writes in a LinkedIn post: “Vendors want affinity relationships to generate revenue and a return on their investment, in particular, net new revenue from prospects that are not currently clients.” Give partners exposure to your members through speaking opportunities on webinars or targeted advertisements to a specific set of members.

Pitfall 3: You treat your affinity partner like a necessary evil. In another post, Frankil writes that sometimes vendors are treated unfairly. “In other words, we want your money but don’t really want you to bother our members,” Frankil writes. “That sort of one-sided approach would be toxic to any kind of business arrangement, much less an affinity relationship whereby definition you’re looking to work together closely.” If you treat your affinity partners this way, can you really blame them for bowing out?

Instead, acknowledge and treat them as the valued partners that they are. Association leaders should recognize that affinity vendor partners play a critical role in the work their organizations. Not only should affinity partners be acknowledged, but their praises should be sung to n members. After all, they are providing benefits to members and helping organizations generate revenue—and in so doing, contributing to the growth, success, and productivity of the association at large.

What pitfalls have you found in affinity partnerships? Or what are tips that you’ve found helpful? Please leave your comments below.


Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

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